Thursday, November 5, 2009

Congressional bonuses

This goes into the category of "another stupid idea from Brian."

After hearing about yet another example of corrupt politicians accepting cash to give away government money, I started thinking about corruption in general. In developing countries, when the police aren't paid well by their government, they resort to petty corruption (or worse) to fill the gap. One of the suggestions that the developed world makes it that these countries pay their police and other civil servants much better, so that they don't have solicit bribes in order to survive.

I also listened to the amounts of money that many of the better paid employees of corporations (especially banks) make. Compensation packages well into the millions are not exactly uncommon. And $200k is considered in most of America to be on the upper end of middle class, and certainly not what you'd call setting the world on fire.

So I can't quite figure out how to consider $174,000 per year as a congressional salary. This is an amount of money that is certainly very attractive for most people, but not nearly what you'd expect to pay someone who had to put in the kind of commitment that we expect from our elected officials. In other words, it creates a great deal of temptation for them to enrich themselves.

So here's my idea. Let's let the magic of the internet and micro payments create a situation where we, the bosses of our elected officials, give them bonuses. Directly. Each rep would have a web site. Each of their constituents would be allowed to voluntarily contribute some small amount of money (up to say... $5 per year). Since each congressional rep has roughly 600,000 constituents, they'd have a potential bonus that could put them in the same league as well paid executives. That alone would create a situation where we would attract better talent to the role. In doing so, we'd also be able to hold them to higher standards because there are others waiting in the wings. Finally, it would make the representatives more directly accountable to the people.

Please tell me why this is a silly idea. Because I'm sure I'm missing some critical issue.